photo of Donner Lake

Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Memorial State Park is located at the east end of Donner Lake, near Truckee. From the lake you can look up at rugged Donner Pass where emigrants struggled to haul their wagons up the granite cliffs. Few locations in the Sierra are as beautiful and historic as Donner Lake. Donner Memorial State Park commemorates the struggles of the pioneers as well as providing information about the earliest inhabitants of the area, later settlers in the region, the wildlife, and native flora.

Donner Memorial State Park

Location: 12593 Donner Pass Road, Donner Lake, CA
On the southeast shore of Donner Lake
(530) 582-7892
The campground is usually open from Memorial Day until mid-September.

For more complete information about camping at Donner Memorial State Park see our Camping at Donner Memorial State Park page.

Campground Amenities

  • 138 Campsites for tents, trailers or RVs up to 24 feet, no hook-ups
  • Picnic tables, stoves, bear lockers
  • Restrooms, hot showers
  • Museum, amphitheater

Online Reservations at ReserveCalifornia:
Donner Memorial State Park Campground Reservations
or call (800) 444-PARK (7275) between 8 AM and 6 PM
Fees: $35 per night

Campground and Park Activities

The Sierra State Parks Foundation works with the state parks to fund important programs in the Sierra District State Parks, including nature talks, history walks and Junior Ranger programs. They also fund interpretive and educational programs and preservation work.

Donner Memorial State Park nature trail, CA
Nature Trail

During the summer at Donner Memorial State Park, they offer Junior Rangers, 1-2-hour nature and history walks (meet at 10:00 AM at the museum), and campfire programs.

Park Attractions

  • Nature Trail
  • Hiking Trails along the lake shore and up Coldstream Canyon
  • Emigrant Trail Museum featuring information on Native Americans, the Donner Party, and the Transcontinental Railroad
  • Pioneer Monument and the Donner Party's Murphy cabin site

The Donner Party

Slowed by taking a supposed short cut from Utah into Nevada, the 1846 Donner Party didn't reach the eastern foot of the Sierra until late in the season with snow already falling in the mountains. The party decided to spend the winter near Donner Lake. The Donner family, which had fallen behind, chose to winter at Alder Creek, near today's Prosser Creek Reservoir.

Short on provisions and unsuccessful at hunting, the party starved during the winter. Stories of cannibalism at the camps are well known. A group of 15 eventually made it across Donner Pass in the snow on foot, but it wasn't until March before relief parties reached the stranded emigrants.

Donner Party Sites in Donner Memorial State Park

new museum at Donner Memorial State Park, CA
High Sierra Crossing Museum

Emigrant Trail Museum

A new High Sierra Crossing Museum will open June 6, 2015. The museum will feature exhibits depicting the story of the emigrant experience, the land of the Washoe, Chinese construction of the railroad, and early motoring adventures over Donner Pass. The museum also has a multi-purpose theatre. The musuem will be open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Pioneer Monument statue at Donner Memorial State Park, CA
Pioneer Monument

Pioneer Monument

Near the museum is the Pioneer Monument which commemorates the struggles of the pioneers who crossed by this route in the 1840s. The monument was completed in 1918. This is the site of the Breen cabin. The Graves cabin was built farther downstream on the opposite side of today's Interstate 80.

Pioneer Monument statue at Donner Memorial State Park, CA
Murphy Cabin Site

Murphy Cabin Site

Along the Nature Trail is the site of the Murphy Cabin. There you will find a large stone against which the Murphy family's 1846 cabin was erected. The crude structure was hastily assembled with no windows and an earthen floor, 25 feet long and 18 feet wide. Enough, they hoped, to shelter them from the snow. That rock contains a plaque with the names of all of the Donner Party members.

Donner Lake Watersports

Donner Lake Watersports is located inside Donner Memorial State Park. They also operate the marina at the west end of the lake. A public launch ramp can be found there also.
(530) 582-1999     Website: Donner Lake Marina

Donner Lake Marina and Watersports Boat Rentals
Boat Length Seats Hour Half Day Full Day
Fuel is included. Prices subject to change. Skis, Tubes, Boards, Wet Suits available.
Personal Watercraft ~10' 3 $130 $470
Centurion Enzo Wakeboat 23' 12 $220 $790 $1490
Runabout with Wakeboard Tower 19' 7-8 $150 $540 $1020
Fishing Boat 14' $50 $180 $340
Pontoon Boat 23' 13 $140 $500 $940
Hydrobikes 1 $20 $60 $100
Pedal Boats 2 $20 $60 $100
Kayaks, Canoes 1-2, 4-5 $20 $60 $100
Stand-up Paddleboards 12' $20 $60- $100 $120- $200


Camping Supplies

Mountain Hardware
and Sports

11320 Donner Pass Rd.
Truckee, CA
(530) 587-4844
Mountain Hardware and Sports
Backpacking gear, fishing, hiking

Mountain Recreation

491 E. Main Street
Grass Valley, CA
(530) 477-8006
Mountain Recreation
Backpacking gear, food, footwear


8650 Boomtown Road
Verdi, NV
(775) 829-4100
Backpacking gear, food, footwear


Books about the Donner Party